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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Chief Appanoose and His Wives

Editor's Note:

Appenoose (portrait) comes across here as a smart, dignified, and diplomatic leader who, despite their enormous cultural differences, treated his guest with warmth and respect. His final comment -- that he thought white people were generally like dogs in their disrespect for a higher power -- reveals how unscrupulous traders affected the Indian perception of the U.S.

Polygamy was practiced by most Eastern Woodlands tribes, and so long as a man could provide for his wives and children, was considered natural by the community.

This entry is also a good example of the ways that marsh employed his pocket notebooks, containing as it does a hodge-podge of notes and reflections written at different times for different purposes.

Aug. 5th

Weather delightful this morning, not as warm as usual as rain had fallen some time previous and it had just cleared off, and all nature seemed to wear a smiling aspect. Bless the Lord O my Soul for his goodness and his wonderful works to the children of men…

[Here follow several pages of detailed description of two more feasts, including transcription and translation of part of a song and details on the use of medicine bundles]

The Chief Ah-pen-noos returned today from his Summer hunt. See 2 or 3 p. over. [Here is interspersed a four-page sermon on the resurrection]. He received me with great cordiality as I came into his lodge, having gone out when he returned and shook hands.

He had his face painted of a bluish color and his hair stroked back upon his head and besmeared with a whitish clay. He wore a calico shirt and green blanket and his ears were filled with white beads. He is about the usual size, not tall, but rather slender and has a very pleasant countenance.

I spoke to him in O-jib-way. He immediately turned to my interpreter and said that I spoke it like the Menominees pronounced; although I spoke Ojibway, that I had been with them. He made many inquiries about the Indians east of the Mississippi, appeared to know much about them and wanted to know if any were coming into this region, as he had heard that they were. He inquired how long I had lived with the Stockbridges and where they were residing.

After some conversation with some of his young men, he entered into familiar conversation with one of his wives who had remained at the lodge in his absence. This was received very kindly, and [she] reciprocated his kind regard. He seemed much more familiar with them, three of whom were present, and also with his children, taking up and kissing them, than Ind[ians] generally do, or than I had anticipated, inasmuch as he now has four and last winter had six.

He has three children living and has lost 5, and I was informed that there were in the village 6 men who have 15 women for wives. Still they do not have generally any more children than when a man has only one wife. Thus additional proof is furnished of the wisdom of the Creator in creating one woman for one man, to replenish the earth, and that more than this even to those who have a plurality of wives does not prove beneficial to this object of the Great Creator. Nor can I perceive that it is any addition to the favored man's happiness if he may be considered so; and as his wife's appear to manifest no kind of affection for each other, nor have they associated together since I have been in the village. They seem not to have any community of interest and that the happiness of their husband and the welfare of the family , but each has her own, lodges in a different place, and has her children and things, as well as her victuals, by herself…

At eve we invited Ap-pen-ooce to take supper with us. Previously I implored a blessing and afterwards returned thanks. He listened very attentively and afterwards inquired of the interpreter what I said. He told him that I thanked the Gr Sp for food, and "Why," says he "that is just like the Indians. I thought the white people never did it but were just like the dogs, because they thought themselves God."

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